Ex-Judge to Keep $111K Alabama Pension Despite Scandal

In this economy, many people are losing their pensions after years of faithful service.  These people will be scraping by on Social Security and whatever savings they may have.  Why does a dishonorable judge in Alabama not only get to keep his pension, but will be eligible for increased benefits in years to come as well?

Although a former Alabama judge surrendered his law license and retired under a cloud, he still remains eligible for his state pension, a spokesman for the state retirement system said on Friday.

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary ruled last year that John Steensland, Jr., was guilty of violating three judicial ethics rules for the way he conducted district court in Houston County, where he was on the bench for more than 20 years.

Unfortunately, Steensland was never charged with a crime as he had retired by the court ruling in May 2011.

Since that time, the state has passed a law that bars public pensions for people convicted of a felony linked to their job.  Steensland can still draw his pension because the law does not disqualify judges tried and convicted in the special judicial court, said Bill Kelley, benefits director for the state’s judicial retirement system.  Steensland’s pension is $9,292 a month.  Steensland will probably receive increased benefits in coming years, as well.

Steensland’s attorney did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Jeremy McIntire, assistant general counsel for the Alabama Bar Association, stated Steensland worked as a lawyer in private practice after his retirement, but gave up his law license as of last Thursday.  “He did submit a surrender of license and basically what it means is he cannot practice for five years,” he said.

Records show Steensland was accused of many improprieties in court.  Those included acting rudely to witnesses, jurors and attorneys.  He also tried to discourage trials by routinely convicting and sentencing defendants to jail if they initially pleaded not guilty to a crime.  The order also said the judge would curse and demean people appearing in his court.


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